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While Choi Surges, Ichiro Slumps

Posted June. 14, 2005 03:03,   


The ups and downs of two Asian big leaguers, Choi Hee-seop and Ichiro Suzuki, clearly remind us of an old saying that life simply goes around.

Big Choi slammed six homers in three games last weekend while Ichiro has been stagnant, with only six hits in 39 at bats, for an average of .154. It is the first time that the Japanese superstar`s batting average has fallen below the .300 mark in his five year Major League tenure and seven year Japanese league career since 1994 when he was the best hitter in the league during those years.

Even a true hitting genius like Ichiro sometimes has slumps, and it is still a long shot to compare these two players. But it is interesting to take a closer look at the point of intersection where their career highs and lows meet: that Choi Hee-seop has a career-low walks while Ichiro has a career-low batting average against first pitches.

Although Choi has a poor batting eye, he has earned a lot of walks, recording 107 walks in 595 at-bats throughout his career. Ichiro, however, recorded 202 walks in 2976 at bats last year.

Choi`s walks continued until the beginning of this season, but he has not recorded any since May 17 in 63 at-bats over 22 games. This record clearly reflects he has become aggressive at the plate. Choi`s batting average actually fell by 0.06 points from .313. But he is hitting .440 with four homers and 10 runs batted in against first pitches, showing his smooth adaptation to his new batting approach.

Ichiro, on the other hand, is hitting just .104 against the 29 first pitches he has put into play this year. He used to enjoy attacking first pitches, with 15 percent of his total hits coming off of first pitches for a .427 batting average. The statistics clearly show that pitchers have become more delicate against Ichiro from the first pitch.

Choi, whose six homers were all off simple fastballs, three of which came off of first pitches, and one that came against a second pitch, needs to observe how Ichiro recovers from the difficulties he now faces in order to be a better player.